Bad Boys: Ride or Die (United States, 2024)

June 08, 2024
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Bad Boys: Ride or Die Poster

I’m not sure what more I can say about Bad Boys: Ride or Die, the fourth installment in the over-the-hill franchise, that I haven’t written in reviews of the previous films. Unsurprisingly, considering it has the same directors as the third Bad Boys, 2020’s Bad Boys for Life, Ride or Die is more like its immediate predecessor than the two Michael Bay-helmed entries of the series. At best, it can be considered as an adequate thriller/comedy that offers plenty of generic action to go along with a dollop of hit-and-miss humor. It’s as straightforward and uninspired an entry into the genre as one might reasonably expect but anyone claiming to have enjoyed the previous three movies will find things to like about this one.

By the time most franchises reach #4, the production is more about meeting audience expectations than doing anything new or interesting. Consequently, Ride or Die doesn’t attempt to evolve or shift the central relationship between mismatched buddy cops Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) nor does it substantially rock the boat, keeping the basic framework in place for future sequels should the studio order them. The movie is in many ways a reworking of its predecessor, with directors Adil & Billall using the same style they employed four years ago while relying on similar plot points.

The movie opens with Marcus collapsing from a heart attack at the wedding of Mike and his new bride, Christine (Melanie Liburd). After surviving the ordeal, Marcus experiences a manic episode in which he becomes convinced of his own invincibility. This results in instances of recklessness during the next case he and his partner work on: looking into whether their dead former boss, Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano), has been set-up posthumously to disguise the identity of a mole. Soon, they become targets of the brooding bad guy, James McGrath (Eric Dane), who is determined to have them killed…but only after implicating them in Howard’s alleged corruption scheme. To clear the late captain’s name, they turn to the only person who can provide an eyewitness identification of McGrath: Mike’s incarcerated son, Armando Aretas (Jacob Scipio), who becomes another target once the nature of his information is revealed. Framed and with a price on their heads, Mike, Marcus, and Armando go on the run. Their only allies are two police colleagues, Dorn (Alexander Ludwig) and Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens), who refuse to buy-into the storyline that their friends have gone bad.

Adil & Billall are competent action directors. There’s nothing special about their approach and some of their stylistic choices (like using a first-person shooter perspective for certain scenes) don’t work, but they’re more-than-capable heirs to Bay (who graces the production with an in-your-face cameo). By now, Martin Lawrence’s schtick as Marcus has worn a bit thin but he still delivers a laugh or two; the best overall gag involves Reba McEntire. Will Smith seems unchanged by “the slap” – he’s still a charismatic performer with impeccable comedic timing and is in sufficiently good shape to pull off an action role at age 55. One wonders whether a scene in which he is slapped across the face several times by Lawrence is intended to be a reference to Smith’s infamous Oscar outburst.

Ride or Die makes the unfortunate choice to incorporate some dramatic beats into the narrative. These uniformly fail. That’s partly because we understand these characters as much as they need to be understood and also because the “serious” moments are horribly written. Marcus’ invincibility complex is played entirely for laughs. A subplot involving Mike experiencing panic attacks comes and goes before being dropped entirely. And Mike’s new wife has little purpose beyond providing the screenplay with a convenient hostage. The filmmakers recognize that no one goes to a Bad Boys movie for character development and interaction (beyond the expected interplay between the leads), so they don’t expend any effort in this area.

I have given three of the four Bad Boys movies a two-star (out of four) rating, indicating that perhaps this is the ceiling for the franchise as it currently exists. It’s cinematic fast-food but not of the delicious, addictive variety. It’s a little overcooked and has gone cold – still edible but by no means satisfying. That’s the way it often is with obligatory sequels and only the box office performance of this one will decide whether we’ll be subjected to another.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die (United States, 2024)

Run Time: 1:55
U.S. Release Date: 2024-06-07
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Profanity, Brief Nudity, Sexual Content)
Genre: Action/Comedy
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1